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Educational Consumer Tips

BBB tips for buying a new or used car

Author: Better Business Bureau

When buying a new or used car, BBB offers the following advice: * Research the dealership on View the dealer's BBB Business Review to see its accreditation status, the length of time the auto dealer has been in business, its complaint resolution efforts and any past advertising concerns BBB may have found. * Test drive and inspect the vehicle. The dealer should have nothing to hide. If the salesman does not allow you to test drive the vehicle or allow a third-party mechanic to look it over, do not buy it. * Read the contract carefully. Take your time to read and understand the entire written agreement. Be sure that all blank spaces are filled in, that all verbal promises are included, and that the type of warranty that comes with the car is spelled out. * Research the vehicle. Whether new or used, research third-party value estimates, its reliability ratings and what features you want. Know how much you are willing to pay before going to the dealership, and do not pay more than that amount. * Consider financing options. Check with several different lenders and get pre-approved for financing before you go to the dealership. You can always choose to accept the dealership's terms when purchasing, but you don't want that to be your only option. * Understand the warranty. Most new vehicles have at least a three-year or 36,000-mile basic manufacturer's warranty, and often longer "power train" coverage on the engine and transmission. If you buy a car still under this warranty, this offers you more protections should something go wrong with the car. Just be sure to confirm the details of the warranty and whether it is fully transferable. * Consider a certified, pre-owned (CPO) vehicle. These are vehicles that typically have been given multipoint inspections before being put on the lot. CPO programs are backed by many automakers and the vehicles may include an extended manufacturer's warranty on major parts such as the engine and transmission at no cost. * Ask to see the car history. For a small cost, you can use a service to find the vehicle service and history report. Obtain the vehicle identification number (VIN) to check for accident reports, previous owners and why the vehicle has been taken to repair shops in the past. You can also check if certain items on the vehicle have ever been recalled. Many dealerships will provide this information at no cost.